Podcast #6

Mother gorilla with a baby gorilla mimicking action.
Being a mentor involves caring for, teaching, and nurturing another professional. It is an important, difficult and rewarding role.
Many vets will end up being mentors. Since vets often leave the profession early, someone with 5-10 years experience is considered very experienced, and often a ‘Senior’ or ‘Lead’ vet in a clinic. Very often even a vet of 1-3 years experience is ‘mentoring’ new graduates. This is often in the form of training new employees.

Some vets will enter into mentorship roles easily, happily and willingly. Others however will reluctantly end up as a mentor, or training new employees, due to their clinics’ working dynamics. Either way, it is important to be the best possible mentor you can be!

This blog will focus on tips to be the best mentor you can be:
1. Ask About Expectations:
Every mentorship should have a purpose, so start by determining the expectations that the mentee has both of themselves, and of your mentorship relationship.

It is important to determine the goals and dreams that your mentee hopes to achieve, and how the mentee sees you, the mentor, fitting into the achievement of these goals.
2. Determine and Set SMART Goals:
Help your mentee by getting them to determine and set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed) goals.

Start by getting your mentee to make a list of goals, and then for each goal determine HOW it will be measured, a specific plan to achieve the goals, and a time-frame of when the goals should be re-evaluated or achieved.
3. Set Rules for Contact and Involvement:
All relationships require rules and boundaries, and all should be symbiotic. Ensure you have a clear-cut understanding with your mentee regarding your availability, and the limitations of your involvement.

- ‘Call me anytime about anything.’
- ‘We can discuss work related topics at work only.’
- ‘We will have set meeting times, but in-between these meeting times there will be no contact.’

Some ‘mentors’ are dumped into the role and may be struggling on their own. Or, you may be happy to mentor a vet on their medical profession, but are not comfortable discussing personal or health issues. No-one should be put in a situation where they are uncomfortable or feel that is it inappropriate to be discussing/advising on certain life issues.

Ensure you are protecting your own mental health as a mentor, and say ‘no’ to contact/involvement that makes you uncomfortable or is too emotionally draining. Being aware that some mentees can be emotional leeches, and protect yourself from these parasitic relationships.
4. Set a Schedule:
Setting a schedule for progress meetings is important, and helps to keep your mentee on track. Also, having clear cut dates and times for meetings will help keep you and your mentee accountable to one another. This also gives your mentee a time-frame to complete any self-assessments.
5. Listen:
Two birds talking at a water bowl.
To be a good mentor, it is important to first listen!
Every mentee will be different, every person is different, and everyones’ goals, process of learning, and rate of progression will be different. Also, every mentee will be challenged by different aspects of the career, and these might be different from what you find difficult.

Listening is very important to ensure you are addressing the problems, challenges, fears and difficulties your mentee is facing, instead of just imposing your own feelings on your mentee.

Ask open ended questions in each session to help guide your mentee:
What are you finding is going well?
What are you finding challenging?
Are you OK?
6. Be Positive:
It is important to be positive to your mentee. Especially in a world where so many vets are dissatisfied with the profession, and vets are pushed into mentor roles, it is important to not dump any preconceived negative feelings towards the profession onto your mentee. Try to stay positive, realistic but positive, and help your mentee love this profession!

Positive and constructive criticism is important as well.
7. Be Honest:
IMHO boggle pieces
Being HONEST is vital as a mentor. You need to give good, honest and sometimes difficult/hard-hitting advice/opinions to help your mentee grow as much as possible.
It is very important to not just be a cheerleader for your mentee. You need to be honest with your mentee. Don’t tell them they are doing great if they aren’t, and don’t allow mistakes to slide to ‘make them feel better’. Be constructive, be supportive, and be honest.

It is important to ensure you are being constructive in any criticism you have. Have suggestions for improvement for any criticisms, and discuss any medical mistakes in the view of what can be learned to improve next time. (Subscribe to stay informed on future blogs, including ‘M&M Rounds’ on how to discuss medical mistakes constructively).
8. Don’t Micromanage:
Mentoring, and training, involves teaching and providing tools to help another person grow, and ultimately obtain independence. In order to do this, your mentee needs to be able to try, to do things on their own, and ultimately need to be able to fail in order to learn and grow.

Teach concepts and ideas and then ensure you are giving the mentee enough freedom to try out what you have taught. It is also very important to give the mentee the freedom to adjust, change and mould their medical practice to themselves, and incorporate what they were taught in school.

Be open to the new ideas and thoughts that your new graduate brings into your relationship. You might just learn something new!
9. Deliver on Promises:
Mail package.
Delivering on promises, and upholding your end of the agreement is important, especially to emotionally vulnerable mentees!
Delivering on promises is very important, especially to someone who is feeling vulnerable, and most new graduates fit into this category.

If you agreed/promised to meet or provide feedback, or scrub into surgeries, or any other stipulations… make sure you are there! You can always re-evaluate the rules/limitations of your mentor relationship, however until you have that conversation, make sure you deliver on your promises!
10. Get Paid (if you are TRAINING):
Two people doing one-armed push-ups
Training takes energy, time, and effort. You should be compensated for this!
Mentorship can come in many different forms, but one of the main forms in the veterinary worlds is what KICK ASS VETS calls the ‘Hands-On’ mentor. (See 4 Mentors Every Vet Needs for more information). If you are an associate vet in a clinic, and that clinic hires a new grad and you ‘Get to be their mentor’, this really means, ‘You will be training the new vet.’

Training is a responsibility. Training is hard. Training takes time, energy, and effort. Also, likely you will be expected to perform all your old duties (consults, surgeries, etc) ON TOP of your ‘mentorship’ duties. I have seen very few clinics that block off time for training/mentorship. Therefore, training drastically increases work-load.

If you are mentoring/training, you should be discussing with your boss about a raise for this position. Ask for a Performance Review , discuss your change in duties, and discuss how that will be compensated.

Business owners get ‘paid for training’ by having a vet working for that ‘new grad’ lower salary. Also, training an employee is an investment into a business, and therefore it is the owner’s responsibility to either pay for this training for someone else to do, or to take the financial/time ‘hit’ on themselves, as their business will ultimately grow due to this new, well-trained, employee.
There are many mentorship programs that are teaching/training situations, or are organized ‘courses/classes’ that are paid services. There are also many mentorship programs that are volunteer or ‘free’. Which you involve yourself with is your personal choice. Ensure that if you should be paid for this extra work, you are. Also, make sure you are WORTH the pay, and be the best mentor you can!

Are you in a situation where you have become a mentor and don’t know how to ask for a raise from your boss? Are you looking for mentorship? Are you interested in mentoring other vets but don’t know how to go about finding a mentee? Contact Us or check out our KICK ASS Consulting to see if we can be of help!
Written by Dr. Ann Herbst BSc, DVM

Published November 15th, 2019

Advocate for yourself, you are the only one that will!

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